The classic board games which were created decades, and in some cases centuries ago, and have remained intriguing enough to game players to have survived, are among favoured games for many of us.There is often a simplicity to these games in terms of mechanics, which is a perfect compliment to a much deeper game in terms of strategy and how we must attack the game to be successful. Checkers, backgammon and others are an example of such games.With that in mind it is with particular interest that one turns to a new game which upon first look illicits thoughts of the older classics.That's exactly the reaction to Retsami, a board game created by John Wildsmith and released in 2006.A first glimpse of the board has one immediately thinking checkers. The well made game pieces have a decidedly backgammon-feel. The combination is fitting because the game seems to draw on both.Retsami is most closely related to backgammon in the sense it is a sort of race game where players maneuver their pieces around the board looking to be the first to get one home. The game even touts that it is 'the greatest game since backgammon'. That is a rather bold statement given the popularity of backgammon, but there is no doubt Retsami would likely find favour with backgammon players because it shares some common themes.Unlike backgammon there are no dice here where a roll can often influence the outcome as much as good game play.The game is played on a 9X9 checkerboard, with a sort of spiral game track that has pieces moving around the board in a race to the center square. The board, while pressed cardboard, is thick, well-made and should stand the test of time if looked after.A single stone slides around the board as far as it wishes, with the caveat it can pass only one corner per turn.Pieces are captured either orthogonally, like a chess rook, or diagonally, as a chess bishop. Therein lies the strategy of Retsami, a name which is Master in reverse. As a player moves a piece around the board he must do so in a way in which it is supported by other pieces, so if captured, he can simple repay the favour.Each player starts with their four pieces interspersed on the tile farthest from the centre, so captures can start pretty quickly.However, a captured piece is not lost. It may be returned, in lieu of a move, to any empty space on the starting row. As result of the regeneration mechanic players always have the same number of pieces, although they may not always be on-board.The game does tend to evolve into a battle of position along the home row. Each player is likely to send a piece out along the track, one leading, the other chasing, in hopes that the lead stone can be sniped at some point.To capture a piece you have to watch the home row, setting up covering attack vectors, much like catching an enemy in a crossfire.As a result the game does seem at times a little too much a give and take on the home row until someone is simply out maneuvered, but that might change if one played it as much as backgammon to learn more of the strategy.Even with limited plays Retsami has a look, and game play approach of a much older game, and that is a good thing. It's a game always worth a game or two to explore a new game with an old feel.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 17, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada